The Big Top is back in San Francisco with “KOOZA,” Cirque du Soleil’s first show in the Bay Area under its trademark tent since 2019. And it was worth the wait for this thrilling production that hearkens back to Cirque’s traditional circus roots while maintaining its hallmark blend of artistry and jaw-dropping acrobatic athleticism.
Beneath the gray and white swirls of the massive tent complex taking over a parking lot at Oracle Park is a riot of color and sound, with sumptuous costuming, a live band on stage and a series of mindboggling acts by an international cast of acrobats, aerialists, contortionists and more, plus a trio of clowns who adeptly release the tension and get the audience in on the act – literally. (You may want to think twice about front-row seats.)
The story loosely follows The Innocent, an endearing clown who is whisked away on a journey of self-discovery to an exotic world by a magical Trickster.
Along the way, he meets a cast of characters including a trio of mesmerizing contortionists, a couple performing a pas de deux on a unicycle, high-flying tightrope walkers and a silks aerialist, skeleton dancers, numerous acrobats performing unbelievable feats and, at the premier in January, an audience member named Tim who was an exceedingly good sport. Cirque du Soleil calls it its “most daring touring production.”
THROUGH THE AIR
That was easy to believe as two fearless performers hurled their bodies through the air, jumped rope and more while suspended high above the ground both within and outside of a rotating, aptly named Wheel of Death. That and the gasp-inducing final Teeterboard act, with acrobats launched into gravity-defying gyrations, were audience favorites.
“KOOZA” actually got its start in San Francisco, premiering here in 2007 and going on to 4,000 performances in 65 cities across 22 countries. It will remain in San Francisco through March 17, and then move to the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose from April 18 through May 26.
The show is about two hours long, including a 25-minute intermission, and is suitable for all ages, though there are moments of pitch darkness and some loud noises.
Tickets to “KOOZA” range from $39 for select performances to $199. Family and VIP ticket packages are available. For more information and tickets, visit cirquedusoleil.com/kooza.
Janine DeFao is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.